Those in Baltimore who have encountered Cory McCray at City Hall or neighborhood meetings might be surprised to discover where this high-profile labor leader, community advocate, electrician and father used to hang out – the corner.
Once the Northeast Baltimore youth started getting caught, he was also spending time in various state facilities and detention centers.
“I was the guy that was carrying that gun, I was the one that was trying to cause harm, maybe to you, maybe to your children,” McCray recalls, in a video made for the Black Male Engagement initiative (BMe). Why was McCray able to make it out?
“Because I had a determined mother,” McCray says, speaking to an audience in November, describing how his worried mother contacted state officials and found an apprenticeship for him with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
“That apprenticeship saved my life.”
Based in Detroit, Philadelphia and Baltimore, the BMe describes itself as “a growing network of brothers committed to making our communities stronger.”
Since it began last year, the organization has encouraged and solicited video presentations by “fathers, coaches, students and businessmen—regular guys from all walks of life who are engaging neighborhoods, starting businesses and mentoring kids.”
Now, partnering with the Knight Foundation, they are offering $20,000 grants to men who are working with others in the community to make positive change. Videos with a powerful message, like McCray’s, seem to be key.
“From Jan. 23 to Feb. 28, 2013, black men who have uploaded video testimonials of what they do to better their community and fill out brief applications at BMeCommunity.org” will have a chance to win, according to a news release from Knight and BMe.
Applicants have to answer some questions about themselves and their project. Community leaders review applications and then the staff of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Open Society Foundations review their recommendations and make a final decision. Funded projects will have up to one year to be completed.